Saturday, February 12, 2011

Keep Your Justin Bieber - These Kids Were Really Keane!

Being Canadian is a funny thing. I live in a country that designed, produced, and then scrapped (for no readily apparent reason) the most advanced fighter-interceptor the world had ever seen. We fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the British, French and Americans against totalitarian regimes in both the Great Wars. Canadians have improved the quality of life around the world and changed the very fabric of society with contributions such as insulin, the telephone, the snowmobile, the IMAX camera, the space shuttle's Canadarm and, of course, the Blackberry. But what's the first thing that everyone, including Canadians themselves, associates us with? Bob and Doug Mackenzie, and the Great White North ("Coo-roo-koo-koo-coo-roo-koo-KOOOO!!! G'day! How's it goin' eh?)

Similarly, Canada has made some fantastic contribution to the music industry over the years; Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, Burton Cummings, Anne Murray, Bryan Adams, Geddy Lee, Ian Thomas, The Barenaked Ladies... the list goes on and on. So it's completely beyond my comprehension what this fascination is with Justin Bieber; a kid who looks more suited for a career as a L'Oreal model than as a singer. Honestly, world, we really do have so much more to offer, eh?

Understand, it's not that I have any sort of bias against child stars. Michael Jackson's star shone brightly at an early age and he went on to prove in adulthood that he was more than just a flash in the pan. Donny Osmond showed his talent not only on radio and television but even on Broadway. And then, of course, there was the incomparable Jack Wild, who played the Artful Dodger in the Columbia Pictures musical, "Oliver!" and starred as Jimmy in the Rankin and Bass kids' show "H.R. Pufnstuf". I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge pre-pubescent greatness when I see it. But I've watched Justin Bieber's performances on YouTube and, I'm sorry, I just don't see the fascination. His voice, while not terrible, isn't outstandingly good either. I suppose I'll have to reserve my final judgement on that point until it actually changes. His stage presence seems just a little too scripted and rehearsed. In the trailer for his new movie, "Never Say Never", the little black kid that introduces him has, in my opinion, more charisma and presence than does Bieber himself. Most of it appears to be just lights and hype and throngs of shrieking tweenie girls in the throes of "Bieber Fever"; an appropriate aphorism, as only a serious fever-induced delirium could explain such behavior.

Back in 1976, I saw a young duo who, in my opinion had real talent; the Keane Brothers. These kids, aged 11 and 12 at the time, were 4 and 5 years younger than Bieber is today. Now, granted, the fact that their father, Bob Keane, happened to be a well-known music producer and owned his own record company probably didn't hurt their chances any, but I saw these kids perform on "Cos" (Bill Cosby's hour-long variety show) back in the day, and I was blown away by their act. They were like Journey, only half the size! Heck, they even sang in Steve Perry's key. They also had their own short-lived TV show, which finally managed to unseat that ratings hog, "Wonder Woman". I think that credentials like that speak for themselves. But don't take my word for it. Listen to them for yourself.

Where are they now? Well, they went on to successful careers as song writers and music producers. As for Justin? While I wouldn't wish Jack Wild's fate on him, I'd have a hard time suppressing a sardonic smile if that's what the future should have in store. But I'd feel really badly about it afterward. Honest!

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